This is the fourth installment in a special seven-part series "A Brief History of Nativism: Anti-Immigrant Bigotry in the American Past", providing an overview of these major movements, as well as the accompanying shifts in American immigration policy and their consequences.
For years, white nationalists found themselves on the outside looking in, faces pressed against the glass to get a glimpse at the movement happenings at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). But the times they are a changing. Not since Pat Buchanan’s racially-tinged insurgent campaign at the 1992 conference have white nationalists found a more hospitable environment in the halls of CPAC.
With the rise of the Tea Party, the doors to CPAC flew open wide in 2010. The same year that CPAC gave the “Ronald Reagan Award” to the Tea Party movement, the far-right John Birch Society, a group kept outside for decades, was allowed to co-sponsor the event for the first time. Others on the far-right were welcomed into the fold, and racist rhetoric about president Obama was allowed center stage. Just like that, CPAC became a white nationalist friendly zone.
Despite a more tightly controlled platform this year, the annual conservative confab did little to disabuse white nationalists of the notion that they were at home, particularly when leaders expressed racially-charged rhetoric and calls for nativist “death squads” were met with raucous cheers from the floor.
This is the second installment in a special seven-part series "A Brief History of Nativism: Anti-Immigrant Bigotry in the American Past", providing an overview of these major movements, as well as the accompanying shifts in American immigration policy and their consequences. The first installment, "Colonial Dreams and Independent Reactions" is available here.
A Brief History of Nativism
Part II: Knowing Nothing in Antebellum America
A Brief History of Nativism: Anti-Immigrant Bigotry in the American Past
Often thought of as a nation of immigrants, at times the United States has also been a nation of nativists. Nativism, the fear of and hostility toward immigrants or other perceived "aliens," has been a mainstay of the American political landscape, even if xenophobic agitating has at times receded. At times, the U.S has been a refuge for the "homeless, tempest-tost." At other times, Americans have lashed out against newcomers, and made them the victims of mob violence, discriminatory legislation, and populist demagoguery. Both inclusiveness and nativism date to the founding of the country.
Conventional wisdom suggests there are two distinct elements of modern campaigns: the “ground game,” the ability of campaigns to organize and mobilize supporters to get out and engage in the fight; and the “air war,” the money poured into advertising and other passive means of persuading voters to support a campaign. Finding the elusive balance between the two is said to be the key to winning.
In this latest round in battle over comprehensive immigration reform, the anti-immigrant establishment has largely conceded the ground game. One reason: their base of support evaporated.
The senseless murder and mayhem in Boston has left me speechless. Initially, I refused to speculate about who did it, despite repeated requests to do so. I pointed to the wildly mistaken guesses about the Texas murders, when people who should have known better talked as if the Aryan Brotherhood were the perpetrators, sure thing. It turned out to be anything but. In this case, as a friend wrote me, “Chechens, who knew?” I certainly did not.
On July 28, 2012, IREHR's Devin Burghart gave a keynote speech at the Western States Center's annual training and skills conference, AMP, an event that drew over 400 activists and organizers from states across the west. Devin used the occasion to remind the attendees of lessons past and to talk about the tasks everyone faces today. This speech is a most powerful indictment of the Tea Party movement, and a call for people of good will—no matter what their principal issue of concern—to understand that the Tea Party movement must be actively opposed by us all.
Kansas passed an instate tuition policy that provided higher educational opportunities for immigrant students in 2004. Many people outside the state were puzzled, wondering how Kansas could join the ranks of New York and California in taking such a progressive stance. In subsequent years, Democrat and Republican lawmakers turned back repeated attempts to repeal this signature legislation. By joining forces, alliances formed between lawmakers from both parties. They took ownership of the policy that facilitated the education of young immigrants, understanding that it was in the best interests of the state.
When Kris Kobach, an anti-immigrant attorney with a long history of working for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, was elected Secretary of State in 2010, many believed that the legislative coalition that had passed and protected the pro-education measure was doomed. Indeed, Kobach had once sued the state, unsuccessfully, in opposition to this legislation. Kobach's plans to bring an Arizona-style anti-immigrant hardline to the state seemed inevitable. Instead, Kobach was rebuffed two legislative sessions in a row. He failed to have passed even limited pilots programs of e-verify, a measure that supposedly 'cracks down' on unauthorized employment.